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Thread: 20 amp GFCI vs. 15 amp in kitchen... not sure

  1. #1

    Default 20 amp GFCI vs. 15 amp in kitchen... not sure

    My house is about 60 years old. I have been replacing all of the outlets in my house because they are all old. In my kitchen, there is an outlet near my sink that is not GFCI protected at neither the breaker, nore the outlet. It is a 20amp circuit, and this outlet in question is rated at 15amps. This is an outlet that I have several high wattage small appliances connected to. I havent had any problems so far but I want to replace it with a GFCI. The current outlet is 15amps so should I replace it with a 15amp GFCI or put in a 20amp GFCI? Will it be a problem to replaced it with a 20amp even though the current outlet is 15amp? Also, I will want to plug in a 6 outlet power strip to this outlet as I currently am doing and the strip is rated at 15amps, so is this safe?

  2. #2
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    It is perfectly safe to install a 20 GFCI on a 20 amp circuit. Not sure the power strip is a good idea. It could easily overload the circuit with 6 devices.

  3. #3

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    okay, but would it be safe as long as they are all not on at the same time? I dont really have much of a choice because I only one 20 amp circuit available in my kitchen since the second 20amp is going to my garbage disposal. I opened up the outlet which has all of these small appliances plugged in and everything seems to be okay... no melted wires or burnt receptacle but I will still replace it with the GFCI..

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by joed View Post
    It is perfectly safe to install a 20 GFCI on a 20 amp circuit. Not sure the power strip is a good idea. It could easily overload the circuit with 6 devices.

    Also, so it doesnt matter that my current outlet is 15amps? I can still go ahead and replace it with a 20amp, as long as my circuit is 20amps right? Some people say that when you replace outlets, match the same amperage as the current outlet that you are replacing.. untrue? Thanks

  5. #5
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    In the US, you don't need 20A receptacles on 20A circuits if using regular duplex receptacles. A 15A duplex receptacle is rated for 20A passthrough if it is UL listed. The only reason to install 20A receptacles would be if you have an appliance with a 20A plug. Those are quite rare. Generally, you have to match the receptacle to the circuit, but the exceptions are the 15A on a 20A circuit as long as there is more than one outlet (and a "normal" receptacle has two plug-ins, so it is two outlets -- a duplex).

    Generally, the 20A receptacles are better quality, but a spec grade 15A receptacle will have nearly identical guts to a spec grade 20A receptacle -- there is just a T slot -vs- a regular vertical slot.

    Most power strips have a 15A breaker built into them. That should prevent you from overloading a power strip that has a light duty 14 gauge cord. If you have an outlet shortage, consider replacing the existing box and outlet with a square box and two receptacles (the first of which is GFCI'd).
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  6. #6
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    There is a difference between a 20 T slot receptacle and a 20 amp pass through rated 15 amp receptacle. In this case since the circuit is 20 amp either one can be used.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by suemarkp View Post
    Generally, the 20A receptacles are better quality, but a spec grade 15A receptacle will have nearly identical guts to a spec grade 20A receptacle -- there is just a T slot -vs- a regular vertical slot.

    Most power strips have a 15A breaker built into them. That should prevent you from overloading a power strip that has a light duty 14 gauge cord. If you have an outlet shortage, consider replacing the existing box and outlet with a square box and two receptacles (the first of which is GFCI'd).
    How do I replace the current receptacle box with a square one? Can it be done from the front of the wall with the outlets facing me or does it need to be done behind the wall? How are the boxes mounted, they must be screwed into the studs right? I guess what I am asking is what would be my procedure to installing the square box to add an additional receptacle so that I can have a total of 4 outlets. Thanks

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kane007 View Post
    How do I replace the current receptacle box with a square one? Can it be done from the front of the wall with the outlets facing me or does it need to be done behind the wall? How are the boxes mounted, they must be screwed into the studs right? I guess what I am asking is what would be my procedure to installing the square box to add an additional receptacle so that I can have a total of 4 outlets. Thanks
    It would involve disconnecting all of the wiring in the box removing the old box from the wall without damaging the wall. Then the hole would need to be enlarged. A two gang cut-in box would need to get installed, for this application I recommend the kind that gets screwed to a stud (AI smart box) Reconnect the wires and install the receptacles.

    It is easier said than done.

  9. #9
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    Boxes meant to be installed after the sheetrock is up are called "old work" boxes. "New work" boxes typically have ears you nail to studs, and that will be impossible. The Arlington Smart Box is both.

    To get the old box out, after removing all the clamp screws and wires, you can whack it hard with a hammer inward to loosen it from the stud. Then, pry it loose with a screw driver and pull it through the wall (make the wall hole a little larger in preparation for the double gang box will make getting it out easier). Some metal boxes can be twisted apart or cut with a sawsall with a metal cutting blade to get them out. Many of mine have the stud nails visible inside the box, so I just cut those with the sawsall.
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  10. #10
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    If you can get a screwdriver driven between the box and the stud, and lever it away slightly, you might be able to slip a sawzall blade in there and cut the nails off if they are go through a strap or lugs on the outside. (new work box)

    If it's plastic, they are usually pretty brittle by now if they are more than 10 years old, or if they are a Bakelite box. Either one will probably have a sweet spot somewhere that if you whack them with a hammer and screwdriver they will probably shatter.
    Last edited by junkcollector; October 2nd, 2008 at 04:22 PM.

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